Table of contents:
- Picture gallery
- System for packing empty containers
- Seemingly simple requirements
- Height adjustable frame
- One kit, many options
- Fully compatible components
- Well advised
- Two plants follow the prototype
Video: Fully Automatic Packing System With Height-adjustable Frame
In the strict sense, innovation means “realizing a new, progressive solution to a particular problem, especially the introduction of a new product or the application of a new process”. It is also significant that this solution must actually be used in the market. In short: a good idea is not an innovation. Only the successful implementation of this idea makes it a real innovation.
As with the medium-sized company Steffes Prüf- und Messtechnik GmbH. Steffes has been developing and building complete solutions for testing, collecting, packing and transporting various types of hollow bodies for almost 40 years. Blow molding machine manufacturers, packaging specialists and automobile manufacturers all over the world are among the company's customers. With approx. 6000 plants worldwide, Steffes is very export-oriented: approx. 75% of its turnover is generated through foreign trade.
System for packing empty containers
The development of the S-Pack-Pal-T packaging system from Steffes shows what innovation can look like: The S-Pack-Pal-T is a fully automatic system for packing various empty containers (e.g. bottles, cans, canisters) in cardboard trays and then palletizing the trays on a pallet.
In addition to the requirements such as "robust", "safe" and "easy to use", the system should have a pack height of 3 m. Furthermore, it should have a compact and box-shaped frame so that it can be transported in the best possible way on a truck or a sea container. There is also a certain amount of flexibility, which is essential for such systems, particularly in the design process.
Seemingly simple requirements
At first glance, these requirements do not look particularly unusual. But in the implementation, apparently simple requirements often prove to be high hurdles, also knows Christian Becker, Product Manager at Maschinenbau Kitz: “When it comes to new developments, it is not only important to ensure that everything works as it should. Especially requirements that do not primarily affect the function or the capacities of the machine can often require constructive changes to the concept."
For example, the transport and installation of a machine must be taken into account, as well as the operating costs of the system or ergonomics or noise emissions. And also seemingly trivial requirements, such as premises, can have a major impact on the implementation of an idea.
Height adjustable frame
In particular, the required packing height of 3 m initially turned out to be a major obstacle. The ceiling height of the assembly hall at Steffes simply did not allow the construction of such a high system. Out of necessity, the developers considered designing the frame to be telescopic. In order to reach the required height, the frame should be able to be extended by 1.5 m.
After the concept had been established, the developers recognized the advantages of this system: In this form, the system could be transported in one piece on a truck or in a container. This meant that it did not have to be dismantled for transport and reassembled on site. The construction of the other assemblies and components now had to be adapted to this system.
One kit, many options
Steffes has been using the aluminum profile system from Maschinenbau Kitz GmbH as the basis for their machines for several decades. And so the Steffes designers were able to realize the idea: Not only the telescopic frame of the system, but also components such as frames and housings, doors and windows or the gripper for the cardboard trays are built from the MK system.
The possibilities of MK products go even further. The Steffes designers also installed conveyor belts from Maschinenbau Kitz in the packing system: two vertically opposed toothed belt conveyors with drivers serve as a buffer storage for the cardboard trays according to the paternoster principle. With the appropriate timing, the trays are buffered or reused for further use.
Fully compatible components
The MK modular system is designed in such a way that profiles, accessories and conveyor technology are fully compatible with each other. "All of the basic mechanical functions of modern factory automation can be implemented with our products," says Christian Becker. "For our customers, it is generally not a sales argument on which basis we build our machines," says Maxim Janzen, technical manager at Steffes. "But for us as a machine manufacturer, the MK components and modules offer some important advantages, particularly in the design and manufacturing process."
In particular, the required flexibility during a new development can be easily realized with the MK products. Components can be changed or adjusted quickly and easily. The diversity of the profile system also enables unusual applications.
When developing and implementing the Steffes packing system, the designers there needed little advice: "The system and the catalog are understandable and we know the products very well," says Maxim Janzen. "With modules such as conveyor belts, the MK field staff gave us good advice on how best to use the conveyors."
In order to make the system as compact as possible, the height-adjustable frame was realized with a scissor lift drive. Telescopic MK profiles provide the necessary flexibility. Components and assemblies that protrude from the frame during operation have been designed so that they can be retracted or folded in for transport.
Two plants follow the prototype
After the packaging system concept had been fully developed, the first prototype as a semi-automatic version was put into operation by the customer. A little later, two more systems followed as a fully automatic version with various options and innovations.
The development of the packing system was definitely worthwhile for Steffes: after the first three systems, two more are now being planned. "Our customer is very satisfied and so are we," says Maxim Janzen. The example shows how practiced innovation can work in a medium-sized company: Being innovative therefore means not only exploiting the possibilities, but also a virtue out of necessity close. And with the right components, even unusual ideas can be realized. (jv)
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